Grad student earns international internship

Brock graduate student Christine Janzen went around the world to find an internship opportunity with the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization.

Janzen, a master’s student in Brock’s Sustainability Science and Society program, will be working alongside counterparts in New York and Switzerland until May as part of an internship program for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The opportunity for the internship came up while Janzen was in Beijing last October for the first-ever World Forum on Ecosystem Governance. She was one of 20 student delegates from around the world to take part in the forum’s Future Leaders Academy. The IUCN was one of several organizations that partnered to hold the Beijing conference.

We’ll be gathering case studies as examples of successful and unsuccessful nature-based solutions applied in the effort to tackle global challenges such as climate change, poverty and food security.

“I found out about the internship while at the conference,” she says. “I connected with IUCN representatives in between sessions and was offered the opportunity.”

The internship focuses on nature-based solutions — one of IUCN’s key priorities in finding pragmatic solutions to the most pressing environmental, climatic and development challenges. IUCN supports scientific research, manages field projects all over the world, and brings governments, NGOs, the United Nations and companies together to develop policies, laws, guidelines and best practices.

“We’ll be gathering case studies as examples of successful and unsuccessful nature-based solutions applied in the effort to tackle global challenges such as climate change, poverty and food security,” Janzen explains.

Heading home from China with the internship was the ultimate conference souvenir for Janzen — an experience in which she contributed to discussions, involving 150 leading experts from around the world, about ways to respond to ecosystem threats.

“Being at the conference was phenomenal. It was inspiring to meet so many people of like-mind and who are working toward a common goal,” Janzen says. “It makes what you do individually very tangible. It was interesting to hear what people, from around the world, are doing within their communities. It was very multi-disciplinary in scope.

“The key thing that was stressed over and over again was the importance of collaboration across disciplines, social sectors and governmental levels.”

Janzen’s supervisor, Brock University biologist Liette Vasseur, was one of the program leaders of the forum and led the theme on implementing the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Vasseur, who holds a UNESCO Chair in Sustainability, was one of seven experts from around the globe who co-wrote the Beijing Declaration on Governing Ecosystems for Human Wellbeing based on the discussions from the forum. The declaration was presented at the recent United Nations Conference on Climate Change, or “COP 21,” in Paris, France.

One of the key points made in the Beijing Declaration, and included in the Paris Agreement, is the need for quality education on environmental climate change and ecosystem governance issues from kindergarten to the post-secondary level.

Janzen’s master’s research paper is focused on sustainability education in Ontario high schools. The context for her paper is the Ministry of Education’s 2009 decision, to introduce additional environmental sustainability curriculum as part of high school courses. Janzen is focusing on geography and science subject areas and has interviewed high school teachers about their perspectives on the current curriculum.

“For the most part, the teachers with whom I’ve spoken are all passionate about environmental issues,” Janzen says. “They view the new curriculum as engaging and relevant and try to connect the curriculum to local community issues.”


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